The Curious Case of Catalonia

As promised here is my take on the Catalan saga.

Even the spelling is contentious. Cataluña; the Spanish spelling – the “ñ” character being unique to the Spanish alphabet. The Catalan alternative spelling is Catalunya. For simplicity I will use the name Catalonia (the anglicised version, as in Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’).

I am just trying to play devil’s advocate here but I do think that there are two sides to the story. Sides we may not even be hearing as the media and politicians play out their usual games.

My Catalonia…

Firstly, let me say that it was while living and working in Catalonia that I fell in love with Spain. It is the reason I made the effort to learn Spanish (well, sort of) and ultimately, I suppose, why my son is Spanish. That was only a couple of years before the new millennium. Even at that time it was easy to see that the recent and ongoing events were inevitable.

Possibly my favourite place in all of Spain is in Catalonia. So, I have no axe to grind with Catalonia as a place or the people I have met there. Unfortunately, it is always the people you do not meet who can complicate things . The politicians.

Economics and UDI

Much of the wealth and employment in the region is due to foreign companies who have chosen Catalonia to base their Spanish (European) operations. It is easy to see why. The area is one of the more attractive parts of Spain with its cities and beaches and mountains (which include the ski area favoured by the Spanish monarchs.) Some of those companies while enjoying the benefits of the Catalan location also clearly need easy access to the rest of Spain. They want to be able to attract the best talent form across the whole country and it is possibly this that is making them nervous – if the media are to be believed. On the other hand, can the media be trusted in such cases?

In 2015 there was a “referendum” that the central government allowed although they called for non-separatists to boycott it. And they did, in their droves. Just over 40% of voters turned out and only 80 % of those voted for independence. That means less than one third of those eligible to vote actually wanted independence. So why all the fuss now? And why do the nationalists want to go through such humiliation again? All that is unclear.

So now there is talk of Unilaterally Declared Independence (UDI). Wow! UDI would be an incredibly brave move. History has shown this to be the case.

Personally – and this is purely my opinion based on what I know from living and working in the region and what I have heard in the media this past few weeks – I believe it is the usual megalomaniacs who have power in the Catalan regional government. And sadly, they are playing to their audience.

Where are the EU?

To add to the circus the Catalans have asked the EU to get involved. Or have they? It is unclear to me and the EU appear to be uninterested; apart saying that Catalonia should be part of a multicultural Spain. It is not difficult to see why. Think about it…

Spain – having been mainly a net receiver – has always been a staunch EU supporter. It was the first country to vote on the Lisbon treaty and voted overwhelmingly in support it. No other country voted in favour of it – unless they were asked to vote again. In the case of the UK (and others) the people were never asked to vote on it. You would be right to think that the EU have no interest whatsoever in allowing or assisting in breaking up a fully pliable Spain.

When my son is old enough to read these things and understand them I wonder what the political landscape will look like in Spain, Europe and everywhere else?

UDI Put on Hold…

The weekend’s promised UDI never materialised. The Catalonia regional government have put off calls for UDI – for the moment at least. What a shame. I was quite looking forward to where it might lead – but that’s the mischievous boy still in me.

I watched the events unfold this weekend and there were two notable events. One was the march by Catalan nationalists who turned out in white as a gesture of peace (following the clashes with police the previous weekend). An interesting angle.

The second – and perhaps more telling event -was a large anti-independence (united Spain) march In Barcelona. It is easy to forget that anti-independent voters are still in the majority in Catalonia. They simply choose not to have their voice heard on the streets in the same way that the separatists choose to. At least not until this weekend. Both sides it seems are becoming increasingly more vocal and the situation is becoming completely polarised.

Confused…

I watched news of The anti-independence rally with interest, But then amongst the Spanish and Catalan flags I noticed a smattering of EU flags. It is almost as if they are were pro-Spain and pro-EU as part of the same argument.

But what about the Catalan nationalist’s? What is their view on EU membership? I am finding it hard to fathom. If anyone can tell me then please let me know.

If they really want to go it alone (so to speak) and have full independence then I cannot help but have some sympathy for their cause. I would have a sneaking admiration for them. If however their intention is to declare independence from the Spanish government in Madrid yet somehow seek to re-join (or stay in) the EU -as the Scots proposed -and be ruled from Brussels, then I only have one question for them:

What is your definition of independence?

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